Earlier this year I was thinking, "How can I make peer editing work, and also encourage discussion of writing, rather than just turning in a paper and receiving comments on it?" After some research on the internet, and some careful planning, the writing workshop emerged!
I am a big fan of Shared Inquiry in the classroom, which is basically a Socratic Seminar. The students are completely in control of the discussion, and do all preparation for the discussion ahead of time. I wanted my students to do this within the Writer's Workshop as well, so that became a huge part of it.
Students worked on their narrative papers in my 7th and 8th grade Language Arts ET classes. In my 7th grade class, it was a choice between a variety of writing we had already done, so they had a choice to pick from that, or write something completely new. In 8th grade they had participated in NaNoWriMo, so I asked them to take an excerpt of 2-3 pages to turn in for the workshop.
As students turned in their papers, I assigned each paper a number and used a permanent marker to take their name off of the paper. In the future, I may just have them put their ID number instead of their name to make it easier.
On the paper it would say: Group #, Paper #, and I split the students in to two groups in each class.
After I had numbered all the papers, I made copies of all of the papers within a group, making sure that one students paper didn't end up on the backside of another. This was kind of a pain if I had a student who "HAD" to have three pages to their story, but I figured it out. I had them stapled into a packet in order.
Then I created a schedule, alternating every other day for each group. This took some careful planning, but I usually had three papers presented in one period (49 minutes). I do NOT recommend having four papers presented in one day, because then you have to rush. We tried this one day to make up for when I was absent for a meeting.
Before Workshop Introduction:
The students had already written their papers focusing on one of the six traits of writing. In 7th grade, we were focused on Word Choice, and in 8th grade they focused on Conventions and Organization. The students already had a student-friendly rubric, but I re-printed it into the packet for each group.
This was put into a packet with the schedule, the rules for Writing Workshop, and focus questions for the discussion.
(I also posted the schedule and handouts to Edmodo in case students forgot their packet)I passed out these packets, along with their packet of papers, and introduced the workshop.
I started off by warning them that this was an experiment, and it may be a total failure, but we were going to try it.
I emphasized that this was supposed to be positive, but critical. Only discussing positives would not help the writer in any meaningful way.
Students were to read and comment on the papers that would be presented on the day of the workshop. It was critical that they actually mark up the text and make comments, otherwise a grade at the end would have no backing. They also had to give each paper a score out of 6 for the focus trait.
Students seemed excited and ready to go!
First Workshop Day and During Workshop:
There were many questions, but most students were prepared. If students were not prepared, they could not participate in the discussion. For each paper discussed, one student had to be in charge of marking who spoke, and keeping track of the time. They had a sheet on a clipboard to mark down when students talked. They also had to facilitate the discussion by asking questions, and keeping the conversation focused and flowing. Each student had to participate twice during the entire period, but most participated much more. The student who wrote the paper in discussion could not speak until the end, but could also remain anonymous. I did have students chime in during discussion in defense of their papers, so I had to jump in and remind students not to speak if their paper was currently being discussed.
After students had their paper workshopped, I collected all of the papers from their group and stapled them together, along with my copy. I gave these to the student at the end of the period. They had two days to revise and edit their paper based on the feedback from me and their peers. They submitted their final copies to Edmodo, and then they were done!
Student facilitator with iPod for timer, checklist, and focus questions.
I kept each groups papers in a file folder.
Student facilitator in progress.
Here you can see the schedule, the student schedule and my copies of papers.
Students tried to workshop while another group listened to "The Tell-Tale Heart". Tip: Never do this, it was so distracting. Have students do a quiet activity on their off day.
A rambunctious discussion group
A very excited discussion group, as you can see by the one student posing on his desk. :)
Please excuse my yellow circle faces, I wanted to make a smiley, but it was taking way too long!
I loved this process, and will do it again. Not only did it ease paper grading time (I graded along with the students), but the students really understood what the purpose of their writing was, and received authentic feedback and experience with grading and discussing a paper. Overall, I think the experiment was a success!
Students completed a formal survey, and I also asked them informally about their experience.